By Joshua Maloni
Rose Muto and her family opened Fresh Start Café & Market to save Lewiston one "Green Machine" at a time.
But first, she had to convince her papa, Charlie, that eating healthy is OK.
"He came in, actually, my second day opening," she explained. "And he loved it. Now, that is a big, big thing with him, because he is very picky. But he loved everything. That's, like, the biggest compliment I could get."
Muto's family planned to open Niagara Marketplace & Bistro last year. The idea was to serve vegan and vegetarian dishes from inside the mansion at 400 Plain St. However, after several months of planning, "It just didn't really work out for us," Muto said.
Still, her family wanted to find something in Lewiston. When Grandpaws Pet Emporium owner Andrew Bell made his North Fourth Street corner café available, Muto and her uncle, Paul Licata, took over.
"This is, honestly, a little bit easier for us to maintain ... especially for a startup business," she said. "So it ended up working out for the best. And we had a little more time to plan."
"We really liked it a lot," Muto said of the space. "We really liked the setup; we liked the open kitchen."
When Neil Garfinkel moved Sgt. Peppers Hot Sauces down the plaza, a second spot opened next to the café. It became the Fresh Start market.
"It pretty much is the perfect fit, honestly," Muto, 22, said.
Fresh Start Café & Market opened in June and, contrary to the original plan, offers menu items for meat eaters.
"We're going to have something for everyone - absolutely everyone," Muto said.
"We're not just vegan; we're not just vegetarian. We're going to make that even more so very soon," she said.
When Left of Center visited recently, cook Carly Farruggia was hard at work on a bacon breakfast sandwich that pairs the pork with organic eggs, grilled avocado, alfalfa sprouts and pepper-jack cheese.
"We're also going to start doing our bison burger special everyday," Muto said. "We're going to add in a few different burgers, as well. Not just the bison. And we will have, definitely, at least one or two of those every day."
While Fresh Start is not solely a vegan or vegetarian eatery, it does aim to be health conscious.
"It's really just about healthy food," Muto said. "Everything is organic or all-natural. We're as organic as we can be. A lot of things you can't really get as USDA organic, but all-natural is like the alternative. All of our meats we have are antibiotic-free. No preservatives added. No added hormones. Everything is just 100 percent pure."
She said that's important, because "the stuff that they're adding into food, it actually is, like, harming people. And it's really hard to kind of grasp unless you are shown, almost. And we've done a lot of research, based on my nana and papa, who actually are the main reason why we started even planning this three years ago.
"They got really sick and we were trying to find alternatives to the medications, because of all of the side effects. In doing that, my family, we went to a wellness course. And that's kind of what kicked everything off.
"It was almost like ... it's a shock - very shocking - what you're actually putting in your body and what it can potentially do."
Since then, Muto and her relatives have pledged to eat better - and opened Fresh Start so others could, too.
"After being educated in that, it's a no-brainer, really, that we wanted to 100 percent do this," Muto said. "We wanted everyone else to be able to see. We wanted to be able to help people."
Muto has already seen a difference in her health.
"I used to get migraines every day. Literally; every single day," she said. "And I was in school, and whenever I was stressed out it would be worse. But now, I have not had one - since we started doing this, I really haven't had one. And, especially since we've opened, I have one of our 'Green Machine' smoothies every single day. And I believe, personally, that that's the main reason why."
The "Green Machine" is a blend of spinach, banana, avocado, choice of milk (almond, coconut or regular), plus a bit of almond butter. The drink is naturally sweet and has no sugar added.
"It's shockingly good," Muto said.
Aliscia M. Krecisz is a Fresh Start patron. She said, "Recently, a friend of mine sent me an invite to like the page of Fresh Start Café & Market on Facebook. I began eating an organic whole-food diet about a year ago to improve my health, and my friend told me to check this place out. I am so glad I did!
"I was excited to learn that all their food is organic and much of it from local farms. There are not too many places where I can order uncured bacon, farm-fresh eggs and a fruit cup, or a protein salad with fresh veggies, organic chicken and homemade dressings. I also enjoyed the 'Green Machine' smoothie, as well. It was a great way to get my veggies in and cool off on a hot afternoon."
Another customer, Polla Milligan, said, "I have been in Lewiston four times, and every time I have stopped there for either a meal or a smoothie. Everything I've tried has been fresh and wonderful! The first time I went, I took Andrew Bell and Karen Nowak from Grandpaws out to lunch. While I don't remember what they had, I was really happy with my delicious buckwheat cakes and a lovely side of delicious fruit. My companions thoroughly enjoyed their selections, too.
"Everything is clean and tidy, and the folks behind the counter are friendly and fun. I recommend this place with complete confidence! BTW, the smoothies are terrific! They are so tasty, it's difficult to believe they can be so good for you!"
Muto said, "Our initial reactions from people who actually are coming here, because they do know a little bit about it, it's, like, they're so excited. They've been waiting for us, almost. A lot of people have been following what we've been doing for the past two years. And they're really excited. When they try the menu, everyone loves everything."
And those who were "a little iffy" coming in, she said, "Once they've tried it, it's like they are blown away."
"Eating healthy is a challenge, but Fresh Start Café & Market makes eating healthy easier, convenient and, most important, delicious," Krecisz said.
She added, "Rosie has been delightful each time I order. I have many food sensitivities and it means I need to know what ingredients are in the things I am eating. Rosie is the best! She is helpful and doesn't hesitate to pull out the binder and let me know each ingredient. When possible, she will make suggestions on what to swap out so I can still order and enjoy."
"We really, really, really want to get people who have celiac or any sort of dietary issues to come in," Muto said. "The challenges are me just making sure, 100 percent, that they are having absolutely no issues when they leave here. That's why we have the whole separate setup for the gluten-free stuff, because we are just so cautious about it.
"Probably the best part about everything is when we do succeed at that, and when we do see these comments on our Facebook page from people with celiac saying that it was amazing, and that they loved it, and that they're going to tell all these other people. Because they don't really have many options. People can go here and enjoy without any issues."
Fresh Start Café & Market is located at 402 Center St., Lewiston. It's open seven days a week. For more information, call 716-405-7607 or visit www.freshstart.menu.
Carly Farruggia holds the bacon breakfast sandwich and a side of fruit.